How to Plan a Work Party

Corporate event planning 101 from three local experts.

Planning a work party | BCBusiness

Corporate event planning 101 from three local experts.

Observe the lack of hands in the air when the boss calls for volunteers to plan the annual office holiday season bash and it’s clear that organizing a successful company-wide event can be a daunting task. To make sure that your major meetings and shindigs go off without a hitch, heed the advice of these corporate coordinators: Michelle Burchill, project coordinator at the UBC Faculty of Law’s National Centre for Business Law; Sharon Bonner, president and CEO of Bright Ideas Event Coordinators Ltd.; and Gilles Fraissange, director of sales and catering at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.


Meetings and parties are a great way to bring colleagues together, but what, exactly, is the group huddle for? Fraissange says, “You need to decide, ‘What am I trying to achieve, who is my audience and what message do I need to convey?’” Whether you want to boost morale, launch a product or update staff skills, Burchill notes, “Everything else you plan should be with a goal in mind.” Once you have that objective, it’s easier to measure your event’s ROI.

List it

Bonner says there are 250 to 300 tasks required to put together most events, so staying on top of that lengthy to-do list is crucial. “I keep an itemized task list for each event and I also enter this info into my Outlook calendar so that I get my daily reminders,” says Burchill. If you’re working with a team, check in at weekly meetings to see where you’re at with due dates and deadlines, assign upcoming tasks and brainstorm any additional items you might need to address.

Find the right venue

Make sure the venue fits your event and not the other way around. Burchill and Bonner agree that the location must be convenient for attendees, while Fraissange says, “The secret is really to work with people who have a reputation of excellence.” Look for attention to detail – things like coat check, custom menus, parking and access during rush hour can make a huge difference to the flow of your event.


Defining your budget is an important part of defining your event, so don’t be distracted by gold-dusted ice sculptures if you can’t afford them. Fraissange warns, “If the due diligence hasn’t been done your company may be facing some huge attrition costs later on.” Plan ahead and shop around to get lower rates from venues and caterers than you would at the last minute. To keep costs low, Bonner hires students and volunteers to help out.

Take your time

Avoid a last-minute crunch by planning ahead. Burchill, who coordinates one of Canada’s largest annual insolvency-law conferences, begins planning as much as 18 months ahead. Every event is different though, so figure out your timeline. Fraissange advises, “Work backwards from the complete task list that you have and allow extra time for unexpected hiccups along the way.”